Day 7 held the top spellbounding sights, including an expedition into Iceland's 2nd largest glacier and ice cave, as well as the highly anticipated Northern Lights (#bucketlistitem)
- Hraunfossar (highlight)
- Húsafell Ice Cave (Langjökull Glacier) (highlight)
- Northern Lights via the Gray Line Mystery Tour (highlight)
STOP #1: Barnafoss
This waterfall is located just upstream from Hraunfossar, if you follow the walking path. According to the legend, Barnafoss retrieves its name from two children who fell into the waterfall. The contrast between the rocks and water was really fascinating.
STOP #2: Hraunfossar
A little ways up is Hraunfossar, It consists of a series of waterfalls emerging from the junction of porous lava rock and basalt cascading into a 1km long gorge created by the glacial river Hvítá. I found the divergence between the autumn colors of the foliage and the multiple streams of waterfalls flowing over the rocks to be captivating. This was one of my most memorable waterfalls out of all that we observed. You can appreciate its beauty from several viewpoints.
STOP #3: Húsafell Ice Cave (Langjökull Glacier)
- Book your tour here.
- Please do NOT attempt to drive up onto the glacier by yourself; it is unlikely that your vehicle can traverse it safely.
Visiting the 2nd largest ice cap glacier in Iceland was truly a life-changing (albeit definitely pricey) experience. Langjökull glacier is the closest major glacier to Reykjavik. In winter, Húsafell Center serves as the main meeting point.
Riding the huge specially modified monster truck up there was quite the experience, as our tour guide was quite funny and interactive and we were going on an adventureeeee! Typically, a maximum of 80 visitors at a time can travel up the glacier by the monster truck, and the exploration inside the touring glacier was around 45 minutes.
These open-air mountain views were absolutely the icing on the cake.
The glistening LED lit-tunnel and caves were seriously mindblowing and there were various interesting attractions to explore. Surprisingly, the inside of the glacier was NOT chilly at all, probably because it was really well-insulated.
Our experienced tour guide walked us through various notable attractions. A point to note is that the ice glacier is truly an engineering marvel feat. It is 500m in length, earning it the title of the largest tunnel of its kind in the world. The creation of the ice tunnel took over 4 years of concerted effort of a team of workers, engineers, glaciologists, artists and architects.
Some 5,500 square meters of ice were excavated to create the tunnel and it takes you some 25 meters underneath the surface of the massive Langjökull glacier. It needs to be built in a height over 1,300 meters to minimize the effects of glacial movement and shifting. Ensuring that the opening does not disappear under the massive snowfall every winter is a large project all unto itself. It is exceedingly safe - the glacier walls are sturdy and it is carved proportionally.
I don't have any photos to demonstrate, but the true beauty of nature is even more impressive close up when you can see how the glacier comprises hard ice bubbles of air constructed in tightly packed layers.
Interestingly enough, the tunnel also sports a chapel that is ideal for weddings and as far as I know one wedding has already taken place there. When we were in there one guy re-enacted a proposal to his fiancé. Our tour guide sang an impromptu Icelandic folk song to the starstruck audience, which was pretty awesome as it reverberated within the chapel walls, creating a symphony.
There were other interesting formations such as this ice cube sculpture.
STOP #4: Northern Lights via the Gray Line Mystery Tour
- Time Tour - 7,600 kr
- Extreme Island - 19,990 kr (Super Jeep excursion)
- Gray Line Tour - 41 euros (Bus tour)
I highly recommend going on this tour because observing the Northern Lights is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experience!
You can check the forecast beforehand to gain a better prediction of the likelihood of the appearance and strength of the Northern Lights.
We had to wait for around 2 hours in the freezing cold before this amazing phenomena occured, but we were lucky that night. It was truly mindblowing. Although it was transient and easy to miss to the naked eye, I do not think I have witnessed anything quite as striking and magnificent.
The lights blazed in the silent sky and swirled in strikes of colour like a living organism. The colors were simply brilliant and pure. The vibrant shades were in perpetual motion, dancing, flowing, evolving. It was truly the greatest natural show on earth, that you have to witness for yourself with your naked eyes.
Disclaimer: The last 2 photos were taken using a special Northern Lights app which intensified the colors. The view was not as vivid in real life.